Tighter security and greater awareness forcing crooks to turn to simpler scams, says Jeff Salway
Losses suffered by Scottish victims of fraud have risen alarmingly this year as gangs turn their attention to new forms of scams.
A concerted crackdown over the last two years has helped reduce the amount stolen through online fraud, such as “phishing”.
But fraudsters tend to thrive during times of economic hardship and are increasingly enjoying success in Scotland with tricks exploiting trust, naivete and plain carelessness.
Some of the biggest increases in losses now relate to telephone-based scams, as fraudsters thwarted stymied by tighter security measures and greater public awareness of online stings turn to other types of transactions.
As fraudsters revert to low-tech crimes more people are falling victim to cheque fraud (up 17 per cent this year), phone banking fraud (up 32 per cent) and “mail non-receipt” fraud (up 34 er cent), UK Payments figures show.
The latter occurs when a card and PIN is stolen somewhere between it being issued by the bank and received by the genuine cardholder. Those living in tenements and other properties with shared hallways are particularly vulnerable.
Experts are particularly alarmed about a marked rise in card fraud phone scams, with the losses suffered by Scottish victims soaring three-fold since the start of 2012.
Some £750,000 has been stolen from bank customers through phone card fraud this year, the same as in the whole of 2012, UK Payments has revealed.
This deceptively effective con involves fraudsters phoning people and tricking them into revealing their PIN and handing their bank card to a courier.
Typically, the caller will purport to be from the victim’s bank and claim that their debit or credit card has to be collected by their courier so it can be replaced. Cruelly, the most common reason given for a replacement required is suspected fraud on the account.
The big trick is that targets who want to check that the call is genuine are invited to hang up and call the bank back. But when they do so the fraudster stays on the line, conning the individual into thinking they’re talking to their bank.
The target is then asked to key in their PIN and told a courier will pick up the card. However, it is then delivered to the fraudster, who, armed with the PIN, starts spending on it.
You may be among the 80 per cent of Scots who feel confident they would be able to spot a fraudulent bank phone call, according to Pay Your Way, a payments method campaign. However, a quarter of people who know how this con works worry that they are more vulnerable than they’d assumed and three in four believe anyone could potentially fall victim to fraud.
Detective Constable Mike Harris, of the specialist fraud unit at Tayside and Lothian & Borders Police, said: “Whilst this particular type of fraud has occurred recently in the Lothian and Borders Police area, we are working with the other Scottish police forces and colleagues across the UK and know we can help to stamp it out.
“If you notice fraud, and not just connected to this particular type, please do contact your bank as well as your local police.”
There’s also been an 82 per cent spike in “account takeover” since the start of this year alone, fraud prevention service CIFAS revealed last week. Account takeover is where fraudsters secure sufficient personal and banking information on someone to access their current or credit card account.
Takeover of credit card accounts has more than doubled in the last year, with fraudsters typically using “hijacked” cards to make large one-off purchases.
Richard Hurley of CIFAS said: “Whether it is by computer hacking, social engineering through popular websites (to con personal details from victims), interception of postal details or poor security awareness of individuals, fraudsters who hijack an account can only so do with the right information.
“Regular changes of passwords, using strong passwords with a mix of cases, symbols and digits, a full internet security package and not using unsecured public connections to carry out transactions: these are the minimum standards that consumers must adhere to, in order to minimise the potential of becoming a victim of financial crime.”
Yet while there are protective steps you can take to prevent online fraud, it’s not so easy to guard against your data landing in the wrong hands when making phone transactions, as our case study found.
Jemma Smith, spokeswoman for UK Payments, said: “The vast majority of UK card accepting businesses and their staff are trustworthy and there are security features in place which make it difficult for anyone to successfully use your card details.
“In the unlikely event someone uses your card without your consent you have excellent legal protection, which means that if you are the innocent victim of fraud you should not suffer any financial loss.”
She advised taking extra care looking after and storing personal information and documents, from passports and driving licences to energy and mobile phone bills.
Be especially wary when buying from any business overseas, Smith added. “Check the business’ website carefully, particularly their delivery and refund policy. Keep print-outs of anything you’ve bought,” she said.
Also, check your statement regularly and contact your bank or card provider if you see
anything unusual or any transactions you didn’t make.
• For tips on protecting yourself against fraud, visit www.payyourway.org.uk
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West